Tag Archives: #explorearchives

Developing collections on Gender Equality at the UK Web Archive

The Gender Equality collection

The UK web archive Gender Equality collection and its themed subsections provide a rich insight into attitudes and approaches towards gender equality in contemporary UK society and culture. This was previously discussed in my last blog post about the collection, which you can read here.

Curating the collection

A great deal of the discussion and activity relating to gender equality occurs predominantly in an online space. This means that as a curator for the Gender Equality collection, the harvest is plenty! The type of content being collected by the UK Web Archive includes:

Of course there is some crossover, not only regarding the type of content but also within subsections of the gender equality collection.

This image is made available and reproduced by CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0. [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode]

Specifically, I find the event sites in the collection really interesting. As well as documenting that the event(s) even existed and happened in the first place, they can give us a snapshot of who organised the event, as well as who the intended audience were. Also, the collection exhibits the evolution of websites related to gender equality over time (which can be very speedy indeed when it comes to sites like twitter accounts!), and the changing priorities, trends, initiatives and more that can tell us about attitudes towards gender equality in the UK. These kinds of websites are being created by and engaged with by humans right now.

Nominate a website!

The endeavour of the UK Web Archive never stops – if you would like to help grow the Gender Equality collection (or indeed, any other collections) click here to nominate a website to save. Go on…whilst you’re at it, you can explore the UK Web Archive’s funky new interface!

 

Image reference: Workers Solidarity Movement (2012) March for Choice

 

Archives Unleashed – Vancouver Datathon

On the 1st-2nd of November 2018 I was lucky enough to attend the  Archives Unleashed Datathon Vancouver co-hosted by the Archives Unleashed Team and Simon Fraser University Library along with KEY (SFU Big Data Initiative). I was very thankful and appreciative of the generous travel grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that made this possible.

The SFU campus at the Habour Centre was an amazing venue for the Datathon and it was nice to be able to take in some views of the surrounding mountains.

About the Archives Unleashed Project

The Archives Unleashed Project is a three year project with a focus on making historical internet content easily accessible to scholars and researchers whose interests lay in exploring and researching both the recent past and contemporary history.

After a series of datathons held at a number of International institutions such as the British Library, University of Toronto, Library of Congress and the Internet Archive, the Archives Unleashed Team identified some key areas of development that would enable and help to deliver their aim of making petabytes of valuable web content accessible.

Key Areas of Development
  • Better analytics tools
  • Community infrastructure
  • Accessible web archival interfaces

By engaging and building a community, alongside developing web archive search and data analysis tools the project is successfully enabling a wide range of people including scholars, programmers, archivists and librarians to “access, share and investigate recent history since the early days of the World Wide Web.”

The project has a three-pronged approach
  1. Build a software toolkit (Archives Unleashed Toolkit)
  2. Deploy the toolkit in a cloud-based environment (Archives Unleashed Cloud)
  3. Build a cohesive user community that is sustainable and inclusive by bringing together the project team members with archivists, librarians and researchers (Datathons)
Archives Unleashed Toolkit

The Archives Unleashed Toolkit (AUT) is an open-source platform for analysing web archives with Apache Spark. I was really impressed by AUT due to its scalability, relative ease of use and the huge amount of analytical options it provides. It can work on a laptop (Mac OS, Linux or Windows), a powerful cluster or on a single-node server and if you wanted to, you could even use a Raspberry Pi to run AUT. The Toolkit allows for a number of search functions across the entirety of a web archive collection. You can filter collections by domain, URL pattern, date, languages and more. Create lists of URLs to return the top ten in a collection. Extract plain text files from HTML files in the ARC or WARC file and clean the data by removing ‘boilerplate’ content such as advertisements. Its also possible to use the Stanford Named Entity Recognizer (NER) to extract names of entities, locations, organisations and persons. I’m looking forward to seeing the possibilities of how this functionality is adapted to localised instances and controlled vocabularies – would it be possible to run a similar programme for automated tagging of web archive collections in the future? Maybe ingest a collection into ATK , run a NER and automatically tag up the data providing richer metadata for web archives and subsequent research.

Archives Unleashed Cloud

The Archives Unleashed Cloud (AUK) is a GUI based front end for working with AUT, it essentially provides an accessible interface for generating research derivatives from Web archive files (WARCS). With a few clicks users can ingest and sync Archive-it collections, analyse the collections, create network graphs and visualise connections and nodes. It is currently free to use and runs on AUK central servers.

My experience at the Vancouver Datathon

The datathons bring together a small group of 15-20 people of varied professional backgrounds and experience to work and experiment with the Archives Unleashed Toolkit and the Archives Unleashed Cloud. I really like that the team have chosen to minimise the numbers that attend because it created a close knit working group that was full of collaboration, knowledge and idea exchange. It was a relaxed, fun and friendly environment to work in.

Day One

After a quick coffee and light breakfast, the Datathon opened with introductory talks from project team members Ian Milligan (Principal Investigator), Nick Ruest (Co-Principal Investigator) and Samantha Fritz (Project Manager), relating to the project – its goals and outcomes, the toolkit, available datasets and event logistics.

Another quick coffee break and it was back to work – participants were asked to think about the datasets that interested them, techniques they might want to use and questions or themes they would like to explore and write these on sticky notes.

Once placed on the white board, teams naturally formed around datasets, themes and questions. The team I was in consisted of  Kathleen Reed and Ben O’Brien  and formed around a common interest in exploring the First Nations and Indigenous communities dataset.

Virtual Machines were kindly provided by Compute Canada and available for use throughout the Datathon to run AUT, datasets were preloaded onto these VMs and a number of derivative files had already been created. We spent some time brainstorming, sharing ideas and exploring datasets using a number of different tools. The day finished with some informative lightning talks about the work participants had been doing with web archives at their home institutions.

Day Two

On day two we continued to explore datasets by using the full text derivatives and running some NER and performing key word searches using the command line tool Grep. We also analysed the text using sentiment analysis with the Natural Language Toolkit. To help visualise the data, we took the new text files produced from the key word searches and uploaded them into Voyant tools. This helped by visualising links between words, creating a list of top terms and provides quantitative data such as how many times each word appears. It was here we found that the word ‘letter’ appeared quite frequently and we finalised the dataset we would be using – University of British Columbia – bc-hydro-site-c.

We hunted down the site and found it contained a number of letters from people about the BC Hydro Dam Project. The problem was that the letters were in a table and when extracted the data was not clean enough. Ben O’Brien came up with a clever extraction solution utilising the raw HTML files and some script magic. The data was then prepped for geocoding by Kathleen Reed to show the geographical spread of the letter writers, hot-spots and timeline, a useful way of looking at the issue from the perspective of engagement and the community.

Map of letter writers.

Time Lapse of locations of letter writers. 

At the end of day 2 each team had a chance to present their project to the other teams. You can view the presentation (Exploring Letters of protest for the BC Hydro Dam Site C) we prepared here, as well as the other team projects.

Why Web Archives Matter

How we preserve, collect, share and exchange cultural information has changed dramatically. The act of remembering at National Institutes and Libraries has altered greatly in terms of scope, speed and scale due to the web. The way in which we provide access to, use and engage with archival material has been disrupted. All current and future historians who want to study the periods after the 1990s will have to use web archives as a resource. Currently issues around accessibility and usability have lagged behind and many students and historians are not ready. Projects like Archives Unleashed will help to furnish and equip researchers, historians, students and the community with the necessary tools to combat these problems. I look forward to seeing the next steps the project takes.

Archives Unleashed are currently accepted submissions for the next Datathon in March 2019, I highly recommend it.

IHR History Day 2018: Exploring our collections

Ahead of History Day 2018, in which the Bodleian will be in attendance, we thought we would explore the Bodleian Libraries Special Collections by asking our colleagues which items in the Special Collections are their favourites and why. The Bodleian Libraries’ Special Collections (at the Weston Library) holds the second largest collection of manuscripts and archives in Britain, the library holds collections in the following subject areas:

For a full breakdown of subjects see the Weston Library’s subject guides.

The following responses showcase the variety and depth of the materials held at the Bodleian, and also provide a unique insight into those that work with collections on a day to day basis.

Catherine McIlwaine, Archivist: Hodgkin’s Nobel Prize

Dorothy Hodgkin was an extraordinary chemist and x-ray crystallographer. During her long career at Oxford, as a Fellow at Somerville College, she determined the structure of penicillin, vitamin B12 and insulin. In 1964 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. She received the news when she was in Ghana visiting her husband, Thomas. They sent a telegram to their daughter, Liz, who was teaching at a school in Zambia, and to keep costs down, they sent the shortest possible message, ‘Dorothy nobel chemistry’!. She is still the only British female scientist to have received a Nobel Prize.

                                       Telegram sent to Dorothy Hodgkin, 1964

The Bodleian holds an extensive archive relating to her life and career and this telegram is part of an additional donation of family papers made in 2014 by her daughter Liz.
MS. Eng. c. 8262, fol. 134

Charlotte McKillop-Mash, Project archivist: Admiral Lord John Fisher’s letter

This is an August 1912 letter from 71-year old former first sea lord Admiral Lord John Fisher to Francis Hopwood, who was a senior civil servant serving as an additional civil lord of the Admiralty.

Fisher retired from the Admiralty in 1910 but kept himself busy by chairing a royal commission on fuel oil, strongly advocating for Britain to build more submarines, and firing off effusive and opinionated letters about rearmament. An unorthodox and radical reformer during his time in the Admiralty, Fisher was a ferociously energetic and outspoken man who, unsurprisingly, alienated plenty of his colleagues along the way.

Fisher was often outspoken in his opinions, which on occasion caused alarm. Perhaps the most notorious example was his recommendation to Edward VII in 1904 that the British should ‘Copenhagen’ the German fleet—that is, emulate the example of Nelson and attack the German fleet in Kiel before it grew too powerful [DNB]

In 1914 Winston Churchill, then first lord of the Admiralty, re-appointed Fisher as first sea lord.

The Letter reads:

Eng. c. 7351/4, fol. 48, recto

Dear Hopwood – Lane’s letter splendid! I’ve written to him. All our experts want shoving over the precipice! I heard one d-d fool the other day say “Well, thank God! We’ve not killed 15 men like the Nuremberg firm in experiments with internal combustion engines!” We ought to be heartily ashamed that we have not killed any one!

What we want is a real bloody war to re-invigorate us!

The real serious thing is that the Germans will have 14 vessels at sea with the Internal Combustion Engines before we have one, thus gaining inestimable experience. We are awfully behind!

Eng. c. 7351/4, fol. 48, verso

And we are going deliberately to order steam oil-tankers instead of their being one & all fitted with oil engines! It’s damnable! All to save a little money – no other reason! All our experts expect the Internal Combustion Engine to be perfection before adoption. They strain at the gnat of perfection and swallow the camel of un-readiness! They expect the 100,000 Horse power Internal Combustion Engines of the 32 knot armoured cruiser “Non-Pareil” to emerge perfect like Minerva out of the head of Jupiter!

Yours till charcoal sprouts!

Fisher 24.8.12

The letter can be found in the Papers of Francis John Stephens Hopwood, Baron Southborough, 1737-1945. Shelfmark: Eng. c. 7351/4, fol. 48

 

Jeremy Mcllwaine, Senior Archivist: Conservative Party’s Official Christmas Card, 1938

My favourite item is from the Conservative Party Archive, it is the Conservative Party’s official Christmas card from 1938, when the Party was riding high in the polls on the back of Chamberlain’s success in preventing war over Czechoslovakia in September 1938, and features a facsimile of the supplementary agreement reached between Chamberlain and Hitler at Munich on 30th September, 1938.

Conservative Party’s Official Christmas Card, 1938 featuring Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler 

I like this item because it never fails to shock students when I show it to them during inductions on how to use archival material – not only because the idea of a British prime minister shaking hands and smiling with Hitler, who is wearing a swastika armband, seems so appalling, but because the Conservative Party chose to feature such a document within a Christmas card. But it also shows the danger of allowing hindsight to influence our interpretation of history. Chamberlain’s reputation has suffered ever since Munich because, as a policy, appeasement ultimately failed to prevent the Second World War. But at the time, there was widespread support in the country for avoiding war at all costs, even to the point of allowing Czechoslovakia to be sacrificed. On his return, Chamberlain received thousands of gifts from a grateful public, including a silver dinner service. Consideration was even given to calling a general election in order to reap the benefit of Chamberlain’s popularity, and the Conservatives would undoubtedly have won a landslide.

Historians will continue to debate appeasement and Chamberlain’s role in it, and whether, perhaps, he was right to pursue it, merely to buy Britain enough time to re-arm and prepare for War. The Christmas card is such a small document, but it represents so much controversy, not to mention a blatant example by a political party attempting to make political capital out of a crisis situation.

The postcard can be found in the Weston Library’s Conservative Party Archive, Shelfmark: CRD/D/3/1/3

Stuart Ackland, Bodleian Map Room: Clark’s Chart of the World

Population maps such as this are, in the field of cartography, a relatively recent product, with the first known examples being published in the early 1800s. Early maps would give tables showing population figures, this example from 1822 has one that is Christian only and colours parts of the World depending on the ‘Degrees of Civilization’.

Clark’s Chart of the World, 2nd ed, 1822. (E) B1 (151)

On the map’s coloured coded key the list of degrees of civilisations range from: ‘Savage’, ‘Barbarians’, ‘Half Civilised’, ‘Civilized’ and ‘Enlightened’.  In its religion section, the map  only covers Christianity (and its various denominations) and ‘Mahomedan’, with all others being listed as ‘Pagan’. The map provides a fascinating insight into British society’s views on the wider world in the 1800s.

Inset of Clark’s Map showing population table and legend

For other posts about the Bodleian’s maps see the The Bodleian Map Room blog.

Matthew Neely, Senior Archivist: The two Presidents

My favourite item is an entry for 11 June 1961 from Macmillan’s diary. In June 1961, John F. Kennedy arrived in London on his first visit as US President. Although somewhat apprehensive of the new youthful President, Macmillan and Kennedy soon forged a close relationship. Macmillan took the opportunity to record in his diary a comparison of his relationships with Eisenhower and Kennedy, contrasting the instinctive style of Eisenhower with the intellectually inquisitive approach of Kennedy.

Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

The entry can be found in the Catalogue of the papers of Harold Macmillan, 1889-1987 Shelfmark: Macmillan dep. d. 42, fol. 69

We look forward to seeing everyone at the Bodleian’s stand for History Day 2018  at Senate House, London on the 27th of March 2018 where we will be sharing information about our collections. Make sure to come and say hello.

Co-edited by Carl Cooper and Ben Peirson-Smith.

The UK Web Archive: Mental Health, Social Media and the Internet Collection

The UK Web Archive hosts several Special Collections, curating material related to a particular theme or subject. One such collection is on Mental Health, Social Media and the Internet.

Since the advent of Web 2.0, people have been using the Internet as a platform to engage and connect, amongst other things, resulting in new forms of communication, and consequently new environments to adapt to – such as social media networks. This collection aims to illustrate how this has affected the UK, in terms of the impact on mental health. This collection will reflect the current attitudes displayed online within the UK towards mental health, and how the Internet and social media are being used in contemporary society.

We began curating material in June 2017, archiving various types of web content, including: research, news pieces, UK based social media initiatives and campaigns, charities and organisations’ websites, blogs and forums.

Material is being collected around several themes, including:

Body Image
Over the past few years, there has been a move towards using social media to discuss body image and mental health. This part of the collection curates material relating to how the Internet and social media affect mental health issues relating to body image. This includes research about developing theory in this area, news articles on various individuals experiences, as well as various material posted on social media accounts discussing this theme.

Cyber-bullying
This theme curates material, such as charities and organisations’ websites and social media accounts, which discuss, raise awareness and tackle this issue. Furthermore, material which examines the impact of social media and Internet use on bullying such as news articles, social media campaigns and blog posts, as well as online resources created to aid with this issue, such as guides and advice, are also collected.

Addiction

This theme collects material around gaming and other  Internet-based activities that may become addictive such as social media, pornography and gambling. It includes recent UK based research, studies and online polls, social media campaigns, online resources, blogs and news articles from individuals and organisations. Discourse, discussions, opinion and actions regarding different aspects of Internet addition are all captured and collected in this overarching catchment term of addiction, including social media addiction.

The Mental Health, Social Media and the Internet Special Collection, is available via the new UK Web Archive Beta Interface!

Co authored with Carl Cooper

The 1975 Referendum on Europe

Car campaign sticker

[Car campaign sticker, CCO 508/11/9-16]

The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (as it then was) on 1 January 1973 after negotiations by the Conservative government led by Edward Heath. In the run up to the subsequent 1974 General Election the Labour Party pledged, in its manifesto, the United Kingdom’s first nationwide referendum on whether to stay part of the Economic Community on renegotiated terms or to completely part company. With a Labour victory, the new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, followed through on his promise and a referendum was held on 5 Jun 1975. The outcome was an overwhelming victory (67%) for the ‘In’ campaign.

The 1975 vote in favour of Europe did not, however, end the debate on the United Kingdom’s membership of what is now a much expanded European Union.  As we await the results of a second referendum on whether to ‘remain’ or to ‘leave’ on 23 June, the Conservative Party Archive provides much research material to those interested in exploring the Party’s position with regard to the 1975 EU referendum and toward the EEC/EU more generally during this period.

Continue reading

The 1968 Sheffield Brightside By-Election: An Archaeologist in the City of Steel

Colin Renfrew Campaign Flyer

Colin Renfrew Campaign Flyer: CCO 500/18/115

Following the death of the Labour MP Harry Harpham on 4 February 2016 the Sheffield constituency of Brightside and Hillsborough goes to the Polls today for the election of a new MP.

Created in 2010 following a review by the Boundary Commission, the constituency is essentially the successor to the Sheffield Brightside. Since its creation for the 1885 General Election Sheffield Brightside had elected a Conservative Member of Parliament only twice: James Hope in 1900 and Hamer Russell in 1931. Indeed, since 1935 it had been a staunchly held labour seat which is perhaps identified in the minds of many today with David Blunkett, its long-standing labour MP, 1987-2015.

The papers of the Conservative Party Archive held at the Bodleian Library allow us to look back to the last by-election of Sheffield Brightside on 13 June 1968 held after the death of Richard Winterbottom who had been elected in the 1950 General Election. Continue reading

Web Archiving at the Bodleian

Web archiving is a relatively new initiative which is becoming more and more of a priority as we realise how rapidly the World Wide Web is expanding and how transient web pages can be. The Bodleian Libraries is working to ensure meaningful online content is captured for posterity and future research.

The British Library’s UK Web Archive blog published a worrying chart of how many URLs are now irrecoverable because the content is simply no longer available online:

eya blog pic 2

(‘What is still on the web after 10 years of archiving?’, UK Web Archive Blog, 2014)

To combat this in the future, the Bodleian has been contributing to the British Library’s UK Web Archive, alongside the five other legal deposit libraries for the UK (the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library, and the library of Trinity College Dublin). We do this by selecting sites to be archived and deciding how often snapshots of their content should be taken, which ranges from weekly to annually to just a one-off interactive picture of the site. The Bodleian has ensured the World Wide Web’s recording of significant global happenings has been captured by curating collections on the Ebola epidemic and Typhoon Haiyan. As well as this, the Bodleian contributes to collections managed by all the legal deposit libraries, such as the UK General Election and the Scottish Independence Referendum, and offers input into what sites should be considered key sites and crawled regularly. These cover a broad range of subjects, from news sites to governmental sites to sports sites, to ensure the strongest representation of society today is preserved.

As well as this initiative, the Bodleian has been developing its own web archive, which seeks to archive sites which relate to the University of Oxford, and to the Bodleian’s archival holdings. We are working hard to capture the websites of the various colleges, departments and sub-divisions which make up the university, as well as building web archive collections around the subjects of Arts and Humanities; International; Science, Medicine and Technology and Social Sciences to complement and strengthen our physical holdings. Sites include those relating to J.R.R. Tolkien, the Conservative Party and research sites on colonialism and the British Empire. We welcome public nominations for sites you deem worthy of perpetual preservation, and also invite the public to consult our current web archives. You can find links to both here.

Websites crawled in the UK Web Archive are produced in the United Kingdom and so can be crawled under the E-Legal deposit act. The Bodleian’s Web Archive, on the other hand, relies on gaining permission from the website owner to capture the website. If permission is granted, we add it to our collections, and set it to a One-Time, Monthly, Bi-monthly, Quarterly, Semiannual or Annual crawl, and the captures are available online after each time they are produced. The work does not stop there though, as websites are constantly updated, which means we need to check collection-crawls at determined intervals to make sure we are still preserving accessible content.

Since beginning the web archive in March 2011, we have captured a broad range of websites, and have accessible archives of content that is no longer available, such as the webpages for the Conservative Women’s Organisation for Yorkshire and the South West.

As well as preserving valuable transitory content, the web archive charts the development of websites. A screenshot of the Bodleian Libraries’ homepage captured in October 2011 in contrast to that taken in October 2015 demonstrates how much websites transform visually and aesthetically, as well as documenting their content changing.

eya blog pic 1

(capture of www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk, October 2011)

eya blog pic 3

(capture of www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk, October 2015)

If you would like to learn more about using web archives as scholarly resources, there will be a free public lecture on the subject on the 11th December 2015. You can reserve tickets here.

Sir Cecil Clementi and the University of Hong Kong

Currently being catalogued at the Bodleian Library are papers of Sir Cecil Clementi (1875-1947), Colonial Secretary in British Guiana (1913-1922) and Ceylon (1922-1925) and Governor of Hong Kong (1925-1930) and the Straits Settlements (1930-1934).  These compliment the Clementi papers already received and catalogued by the Library in 1997 (shelfmark: MSS. Ind. Ocn. s. 352).

Clementi spent many years working in Hong Kong having first been posted there as a cadet in 1899.  He was involved with the foundation of the University of Hong Kong and wrote the words (in Latin) of the University Anthem which was performed at the opening ceremony on 11 March 1912.

In 2011, Professor Chan Hing-yan re-orchestrated the Anthem as part of the University’s centenary celebration (listen here).

Clementi returned to Hong Kong as Governor in 1925.  He was made Chancellor of the University the same year and in 1926 was awarded an Honorary LLD (Doctor of Laws).

Images

(1) Denman Fuller, Cecil Clementi and the University of Hong Kong. University Anthem (Novello and Company Limited, London: c.1912)

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecil_Clementi

The Englishwoman’s Guide to Living in the Commonwealth

There is a great deal of focus on the lives and work of the officers of Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service and civil contractors working abroad. Here at the Bodleian in our Commonwealth and African collections researchers often consult our many official and personal papers including those of the Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association.

But what about the wives and children that came with them? They had to deal with living in a foreign country with different customs, languages and climates. Many of them, at least initially, had no work routine to settle into or familiar faces to rely on.

Think for a minute of the thousand little things in your everyday life that you take for granted. Dealing with them in another land—even in a large metropolitan city (which many of them were not posted to)—could be confusing enough. For those who moved to a provincial outpost or a small island it was even more of a culture shock.

House and scenes from daily life in the Seychelles

Photo of a WCS member’s house and from her daily life in the Seychelles.

Take something as basic as buying common household goods: Where do you find needle and thread? Do they even have oats here? Can you buy beef? Often you needed to find a local substitute and even if they were available it might be packaged different, you might be looking in the wrong shop or you can’t find the words to describe something that seems so obvious to you. This could end up being an exercise in frustration where you found yourself wandering aimlessly for hours and returning empty handed.

WCS promotional leaflet with a stylized red sun inset with a globe.

WCS promotional leaflet.

Enter the Women’s Corona Society (WCS).

Most people will not have heard of it, but to the emigrating Englishwoman it was a lifeline. They gave courses on food, childcare, and health as well as providing a support network for the wives and families of those who were working abroad. It could be a lonely life with the husband away at work all day and lot of leisure time on your hands.

6 WCS educational pamphlets.

A selection of leaflets for the various courses on offer to their members.

The WCS provided courses to educate the new arrival on living overseas, charities to be volunteers in, visits and outings to familiarise them with the local area and people, social gatherings to relax and meet others in the society etc.

WCS autumn programme featuring doctors and experts speaking on various subjects.

WCS autumn programme.

A schedule of autumn courses shows the range of topics covered from the practical to the educational with doctors, officials and other experts speaking on ‘Malaria and Other Insects Borne Diseases’ to ‘Nature Studies Overseas’ to ‘Beauty round the World’.

One of the WCS members paints an evocative picture of what a prospective newcomer could expect upon arrival.

‘Often, on arrival, a family may live for a while in a hotel – and this can sometimes be a lonely start for a wife whose husband is out at work all day and she knows no one to talk to.’

And for ‘families who go straight into their own homes, the facilities of the Corona “Survival Basket” are often very welcome until their own luggage arrives.’

 

A selection of invitations for London members..

A selection of invitations for London members.

It was not just with the practical aspects of living overseas that WCS helped with. One of the most important things they provided was a social network.

This was fostered by theatre parties, afternoon teas, and charity events.

It wasn’t only a resource and a society for when you were abroad though. They also had a thriving social scene around their London headquarters; as shown by the selection of invitations to the right.

Whether their husbands’ tours of duty were done and they had to reintegrate to British life, or they were Commonwealth citizens moving to the UK for the first time, the WCS was equally there to help them find their feet as well.

Sometimes for returning expats the UK was the most foreign land of all when your friends, family and life had moved on without you.

Denis Healey obit.

The recent death of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey at the age of 98 reminded me of a curious connection in the Roy Jenkins archive. Not only were Healey and Jenkins Labour Party and ministerial colleagues but in 1986, The Times commissioned Jenkins to revise what turned out to be Denis Healey’s very premature obituary.

Typescript of page 9 of Roy Jenkins' revised obituary of Denis Healey, © Roy Jenkins estate

Typescript of page 9 of Roy Jenkins’ revised obituary of Denis Healey, MS. Jenkins 440, © Roy Jenkins estate

Corrected typescript insertions for Roy Jenkins' revised obituary of Denis Healey, © Roy Jenkins estate

Corrected typescript insertions for Roy Jenkins’ revised obituary of Denis Healey, MS. Jenkins 440, © Roy Jenkins estate

This newly released file [see MS. Jenkins 440] contains multiple manuscript and typescript drafts of the obituary, as well as Jenkins’ notes and research, including photocopies from The Times regarding Healey’s famous phrase “they must be out of their little Chinese minds”.

Enclosed with the file is a letter from John Grigg, obituaries editor for The Times, calling the final version “a masterpiece in the genre”. It’s by no means the only acclaimed biographical work by Roy Jenkins. A life-long author as well as a life-long politician, he specialised in political biography. He wrote well-received books about Attlee, Dilke, Truman, Asquith, Gladstone, Churchill and Roosevelt and (not least) his own memoir, A Life At The Centre (1991). You can find drafts and related papers for his books and his journalism (including more obituaries) in the Roy Jenkins archive at the Weston Library. He also wrote five pieces for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, including articles on his former Labour colleagues Harold Wilson and Tony Crosland [DNB subscription required].